There are very few authors from whom I will pre-order a book with nothing more than the title to go on. There are even fewer I’ll consider buying twice: once for the initial speedy Kindle read and once to own the book as a physical object.
Jim C. Hines is on that list. And with his latest release, Terminal Alliance, he’s cemented his place there.
The basic premise of the book can be boiled down to: What if human sanitation workers were the only ones left to save universal civilization?
Mops smiled, wondering briefly if Grom knew enough about humans to distinguish between a smile of pleasure and general good will and a smile that, much like a Glacidae’s raised spines, warned of stabbings and general violence. (Kindle Location 788)
It’s more complex than that, of course it is. But that’s the basic premise.
Also involved: pseudo-zombies, alien plagues, humans embracing their own stupidity, governmental lies, more lies, a few statistics, video games, and two separate versions of Clippy.
No, I’m not kidding.
Back in basic training, [Mops had] had nightmares about their teaching interface coming to life and chopping through her door with a combat blade, grinning its sociopathic grin and saying, “It looks like you have too much blood in your body. Would you like help with that?” (Location 1,089)
As always with Hines’s writing, the characters: Lt. Mops (Marion Adamopoulos), Lt. JG Marilyn Monroe (not what you think), Techician Sanjeev Kumar, and Technician Wolfgang Mozart (“Wolf”) each have their distinctive voices and personalities, as do each of the aliens, what we learn about their cultures and their ways of naming themselves when translated to “human” (understand that the individual human languages were lost and returned to an amalgamation by many beleagured linguists). The Glacidae have multisyllabic but easily shortened names, such as Technician Gromgimsidalgak “Grom”, the remaining non-human on the ship after The Event. The Krakau (the big bosses) choose song titles for their name (which caused me to laugh when we were introduced to one whose name I suspect was there as a gentle, friendly dig at John Scalzi). And the Prodryans (the warlike ones), whose names in human are somewhat Puritan: Burns Like Sunspots.
(on the cover, we see, from R-L: Kumar [I think, could be Monroe], Mops, and Grom)
I don’t know how Hines manages his deft humorous touch but he does, and never more than the subtle little inside jabs at humanity:
But I like you people. You’re mostly straightforward, easy to deal with, and all a little crazy. You might be an endangered species, but I’m rooting for you. (Location 2,460)
I’m guessing, since the subtitle of this is Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse, that there will be more books, and oh, I hope so. I like Lt. Mops and her motley crew, and I, too, am rooting for this universe’s humans to do what we all do best:
“Don’t worry,” Mops said dryly. “I have the utmost confidence in your ability to break things.” (Location 4,635)
And remember to stay for the Nusuran sex opera!